The emotional rollercoaster is one that we ride for life. And sometimes it’s a lot less fun than the physical amusement park kind. But over time, we learn to navigate the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and even the loops. Our kids, however, are still new to this ride. So, as the all-knowing, holding-the-secrets-to-life parents, it’s our job to hold their hand and help them navigate it. But don’t you worry! We’ll be right there by your side to give you some handy tips and tricks that cover some of the more common emotions you might come across on this rollercoaster. On today’s ride, let’s talk about sadness.
Sadness is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with out of all the human emotions. It occurs in a variety of ways and at various levels: it can be as simple as disappointment or as complex as grief and depression. Sadness is often referred to as one of the primary or core emotions, and it is one of the first to emerge and can be felt very early in life. Kids, like us, are able to feel this emotion very easily. As parents and caregivers, it is critical to not only assist children in processing and coping with this difficult emotion, but also to convey that sadness is normal–everyone feels sad at times. Dealing with it, however, is not something they can instantly do. And that’s where we come in. Here’s how you can hold their hand through this:
Respond to it
Sadness can manifest itself in a variety of physical ways. It is most commonly expressed through tears, but it can also manifest itself through other ways like anger, isolation, clinginess, or stomach ache in children. As a parent, take note of any changes in behaviour that may indicate the less obvious reactions. Then, using verbal cues, you can help them connect those reactions to sadness. It's important to remember that, while their feelings may seem insignificant to you as an adult, they're the exact opposite from the child's perspective. Instead of trivializing your child's feelings, remember age-appropriate sadness and respond with empathy and sympathy.
Whenever your child is sad, one of the most important messages you can convey to them is that you are there for them. Sadness can be a lonely emotion, especially when it is triggered by something very personal and unique. It helps to have someone who understands what you're going through as a support system. If your child, for example, misplaces their favourite stuffed animal, listen to them as much as they want to talk about it. This type of storytelling could be a way for them to process their emotion. Parents frequently attempt to be strong for their children in order to demonstrate that everything will be fine. However, adults displaying appropriate emotion, can be beneficial to a child.
Coping with sad feelings
Creative activities can be a great way to express negative emotions in a positive way. Instead of telling your child, "Don't be sad," encourage them to draw a picture of how they feel, sing, dance, or construct something. Teaching mindfulness and relaxation to children at a young age sets the stage for them to use these techniques for the rest of their lives. During stressful situations, deep breathing or visualizing with your child can also help you stay calm as well!
There is no such thing set time-line for getting over sadness. Learning to process emotions rather than ignoring them is the key to getting over it with true strength and resilience. Allowing your child to feel sad and process it allows them to grieve the loss, which is an important first step in the healing process. Allowing your child to experience sad feelings teaches them that they are capable of dealing with strong emotions. However, sadness can be overwhelming at times, and in those cases, seeking professional assistance is the best option. So don't be too hard on yourself if you can't help them overcome their sadness on your own. You’ll always be there for them no matter what and believe that you are doing the best you can do for them.